7 key moments from our meeting of global leaders in India

Climate change, women's equality, skills and other reforms featured high on the agenda in New Delhi Image: World Economic Forum/Benedikt von Loebell

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This article is part of: India Economic Summit

The World Economic Forum's 33rd India Economic Summit has just come to a close in New Delhi. Around 650 global leaders from business, government, civil society, arts and culture, science and academia attended the summit, the theme of which was Creating Indian Narratives on Global Challenges.

Climate change, India's cultural renaissance, infrastructure, gender parity, tourism, education, skills and economic reforms - including demonetization and the goods and services tax - featured high on the agenda.

Here is a selection of highlights and key moments from the gathering. And don't forget that if you missed any of the 33 sessions that were live-streamed, you can watch them again right here on our website.

India's first Open Forum

India’s demographic advantage, with two-thirds of its 1.3 billion people under 35 years old, represents a huge opportunity for development.

How can India create an environment for these young people to innovate?

That was the theme of the session, My India @2022, the first Open Forum session (which means that it was open to the general public) to be held at one of our India meetings.

Ahead of the session, we asked our Twitter followers the following question, which yielded an impressive 17,000 responses.


A key topic during the discussion was, not surprisingly, jobs. More specifically, why are government reforms not translating into employment opportunities?

Part of the answer lies in improving the business ecosystem, explained Anu Acharya, founder and CEO of


There are lots of areas where we can create jobs within existing industries, said Smriti Zubin Irani, India's Minister of Textiles, Information and Broadcasting. It’s all about tapping the untapped potential.

One of Bollywood's biggest stars opened up about her battle with depression
Image: World Economic Forum/Benedikt von Loebell

Bollywood’s Deepika Padukone joined us for a conversation with renowned neuroscientist and physician Murali Doraiswamy to examine the current stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Asked about when she knew she was depressed, Padukone says it started with "a feeling of not being completely there".


The actress says she feels "lighter" for having shared her story, and says she set up the Live Love Laugh Foundation to help others do the same.

Padukone also told the audience that the narrative around mental health in India needs to change. It's important to treat mental illness in the same way as physical illness, she believes.


Professor Doraiswamy, who answered some of your questions concerning mental health and depression on our blog platform, Agenda, says that Padukone talking about her depression is a transformational for mental health in India.

Can India lead on climate change?

Pollution and the environment were hot topics at the meeting in India. With about two-thirds of its power still produced from coal, the country's leaders - despite early reluctance to sign up to the Paris Agreement - are keen to play a prominent role in addressing climate change.

By 2027, 60% of India's electricity will come from non-fossil fuel sources, exceeding the target set by the landmark Paris accord by almost 20%.


India also wants to reduce the number of petrol and diesel vehicles on the road. By 2030, the government wants all new cars and trucks to be electric.

Is India set up to meet these targets and lead the world in preventing catastrophic climate change? You can watch our session, Leading on the Paris Agreement, here.

A conversation with disability rights activist Malvika Iyer

Malvika Iyer, one of the co-chairs of our meeting, is a bilateral amputee and bomb blast survivor who now campaigns for disability rights and gender equality. Iyer also serves as Member of the Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality at the UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development

In a Facebook Live interview with us, she spoke about resilience, overcoming personal challenges and the rights of the disabled in a world that often moves too fast to care.

What the New Silk Road means for India

With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling China's One Belt One Road project, a vast $900 billion trade route running from China to Europe, a “colonial enterprise”, how will India – and other countries in South Asia – balance national sovereignty with the imperative of economic integration?

The session Asia's New Normal was dominated by this question.

Despite tensions between the two countries, there was agreement among some of the panellists that there is no need for India to compete with China.

Shashi Tharoor, member of parliament in India, said: “China’s strategic vision is to establish itself as a superpower. We have to learn to live with it. Competition is irrelevant – we should be cooperating much more than we are …The elephant and the dragon can dance together.”


Oh, and if you haven't heard of the New Silk Road, here's our comprehensive guide.

India's women in the workforce

India has among the lowest female labour-force participation rates in the world, declining further in the last decade. Meanwhile women contribute just 24% to the country's GDP, compared with a global average of 48%. This is despite women topping nearly every competitive examination in the country and outnumbering men in the best colleges.

How can India ensure that women enter, stay and progress in the labour market?

There's a noticeable lack of women in middle management, said Welspun India CEO Dipali Goenka. But training and mentoring can help change this.


So do women need male colleagues to champion equality in the workplace, asked moderator and Euronews anchor Maithreyi Seetharaman?


Girotra added that the government could do more to improve security for women who work shifts.


Finally, Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, a government body for economic development, argued that change needs to happen long before women enter the workforce.


India's $20 billion opportunity

Amazingly, India only welcomed 9 million foreign tourists last year. By comparison, France received over 84 million. So while the domestic tourism industry in India is thriving, the international market clearly has some work to do.

Bain & Company estimate that adding a further 20 million foreign visitors a year could lead to $20 billion in tourism receipts and create 1 million jobs. Meanwhile, policy-makers in India have also set a target to make India the world's number one aviation market by 2030. So how can India realize this potential?

That's the focus of our new report, Incredible India 2.0 - India’s $20 Billion Tourism Opportunity, launched this week here in New Delhi.

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